Two of the team at Tea2You on sharing knowledge, building a global customer base and treating the stall as a stage
Interviews: Viel Richardson
Image: Orlando Gili
Mariana on Ratan
Ratan is the heart and soul of this business. He is so passionate and knows so much about the teas we sell: their geography, history, cultural relevance and the best ways to make, serve and store them. He is an expert tea taster, and he still tastes hundreds of teas every year to make sure we only sell the best.
I first heard of Ratan while I was still living in Colombia. One of my friends used to have a job here and told me it would be a great place for me to work if I came to London. From the start, I loved Ratan’s enthusiasm for sharing his knowledge, with me and with our customers. When he has customers who are really interested in the tea, and you see them beginning to connect with what he is telling them, he gets really excited. It really makes his day. You can see from his face how much he enjoys it.
Ratan loves keeping in touch with people who have bought the tea here in person but live a long way away, which is why he also enjoys working on the online orders. It is a way of continuing that relationship—and of course they will come to see us whenever they return to London. In fact, Ratan has regular customers from many different places who come here specifically to speak to him and buy his tea.
Sometimes he gets a bit stressed, and it can be difficult to communicate with him—he gets into a kind of intense, high energy focus. But his energy is also the best thing about Ratan. He is willing to help anyone in any way he can. He is such a kind person. He has a very generous spirit, and it is very nice to be around someone like that every day.
Ratan on Mariana
For me, people who work on this stall are pupils as well as employees. Tea can be a very complex subject, so I try to give a rounded training rather than just teaching them how to work on the stall. Mariana has taken to this very well. She is an extremely intelligent, observant girl.
Being from Colombia, Mariana loves coffee and did not drink much tea when she first started here. Making the tea, serving the tea and storing the tea are all things that can take a long time to master, but Mariana has the attitude of wanting to continually improve in each area and she is doing fantastically well. She has a natural curiosity about everything and is always asking for more information. If she comes to me for the answer to a question that a customer has asked, she does not just want to know how to deal with the query, she also wants that knowledge for herself.
She is a drama student, so when she first started working here, one of the approaches I took was to get her to treat her job like a performance, with the stall being the stage. She really grew into her role, almost thinking of the customers as fellow actors. She has a very bubbly character but never goes too far and is always very polite, which is extremely important.
She clearly loves working at the Market. She loves meeting people from all over the world and really enjoys the multicultural nature of Borough. She is already a real part of this community.
Mariana is a very caring girl. Sometimes I forget to eat, and she tells me, “Look, Ratan, you have to eat properly,” and offers to go and get me something.
The best thing about working with her is her big personality—she is so bubbly, happy and energetic. In the morning, she comes in with a huge smile and gives me a big hug. The worst thing is when she is hungry. She gets a bit grumpy, so the moment I see her getting hungry, I tell her: “Go find something delicious to eat, and be your normal self when you get back!”